Written by: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Art by: Leslie Hung
Publisher: Image Comics
Bryan Lee O’Malley, the author of graphic novels such as Lost At Sea, Seconds and the cult hit Scott Pilgrim, is finally making a return to writing with a new monthly series at Image Comics. The comic stars Lottie Person, a fashion blogger with the perfect online image, but who is secretly racked with allergies and terrified of people. With O’Malley making the switch to a monthly and not drawing his own work, can he capture the same magic he finds in his OGNs? The answer is a huge YES.
The opening issue introduces us to Lottie and her “friends”, with the majority of the comic introducing us to the headspace Lottie inhabits. Lottie is vain, stuck up and almost hilariously shallow, yet O’Malley manages to make her a sympathetic and relatable protagonist, even if you don’t want to admit all you have in common with her. Lottie is one of the most human and real characters I’ve read about in ages, she doesn’t come off as a stereotype, and instead reminded me of so many people I know. Her inner thoughts are laugh out loud funny, a lot of the book’s comedy being generated from her absolutely broken world view and warped sense of importance. As stated though, she also manages to be very sympathetic. O’Malley hits on a all too real idea of superficial beauty in the digital age, though never once sounds like he’s trying to be edgy or look down on social media and youth culture. Instead, O’Malley accepts the current state of the world for what it is and shows how people live in it. It makes his script seems relevant and insightful to its target audience of young adults, rather than an old man trying to look like he’s down with the kids with his snapchats and his beats.
This for me is the biggest takeaway from Snotgirl, and why I feel it’s doing stuff no other comic does. When other modern day comedy comics mention social media sites or popular tv shows it’s almost always cringey and being used as the set up for a lame joke about how switched off youths are. O’Malley though, in all his other works and especially here, feels like a Zeitgeist for 20-25 year olds, summarizing our struggles, language and culture perfectly and telling complex stories and relationships within this world. For example, there’s a scene in which Lottie is waiting for her friends to show up, but they text her to cancel. The text messages are written like a genuine text, with short hand and emojis and stuff, though it’s all perfectly legible and I didn’t once struggle with what was being said. In fact, I barely even noticed that O’Malley had put a translator at the bottom of the page explaining what some of the text meant for people not in the loop. The dialogue was so natural though that it felt unnecessary, but was a nice touch for those not versed in this style of communication. It’s moments like this that show O’Malley perfectly understand the people and culture he’s writing about, his ability to poke fun at the importance we place on social media and our image therefore feel less like the ramblings of an old man who just doesn’t get it, and more like someone who actually understands today’s youth culture and is able to authentically and openly talk about it. This is what makes this book such a big win for me, no other writer I know is quite so on the pulse as O’Malley. I really didn’t expect any comic this week to both use the word “normie” unironically, and for it to be used correctly without a hint of edge.
What I was most curious to see was how O’Malley’s style would work alongside a co-artist, as so often his humour and character comes through from him placing little artistic quirks and jokes in his art. Thankfully, Leslie Hung manages to both nail the visual humour and small gags as well as make the book look absolutely beautiful. Each character looks uniquely different (and beautiful, appropriately) with their designs telling you a lot about their personalities right off the bat. They still have the cartoonish type quality O’Malley’s own OGNs have so as not to feel too alienating for fans of his previous work, though Hung definitely has her own artistic voice and it looks like a much more mature version of O’Malley’s own style. Even better, all the little touches such as text message bubles, non-sequitars and visual gags are perfectly handled, making the book look like no other. I honestly can’t praise Hung enough, her style is beyond gorgeous and give the book a look completely different from anything else. It’s both strikingly gorgeous and cripplingly real in certain areas, capturing the books central theme of reality vs. perfection in cleverly beautiful ways.
If there’s one complaint I have about the book, it’s that the ending comes a little quick with a twist ending that felt a little out of nowhere. There’s a slow sense of dread and confirmation of Lottie’s fears that feel perfectly paced and revealed, though after that the cliffhanger feels a bit strange. I’m not used to O’Malley on a monthly, so cliffhangers and having to wait for more story are something I’m going to have to get used to, though I really was disappointed when it ended because I was enjoying it so much.
Overall though, Snotgirl is a perfect evolution of O’Malley’s style, and a fantastic debut to what looks to be an amazing monthly series. The humour lands perfectly, the tone is unique and talks about issues no other book handles as well, and the style is off the charts. I’ve written almost a thousand words of near continuous praise, twice as much as my normal reviews, so this should really tell you a lot about how much I adored this book. If you’re a young adult then you owe it to yourself to pick this book up, you’ll find no other one that tackles issues you face as well as this. Even if you’re not a youth, I’d still advise picking this up, you might learn a little something about a generation many people peg as lazy and tech obsessed.